Total primetime commercial ratings fell 8% across the board, marking the sixth straight quarter of total TV declines — and the steepest drop since Q3 2009, according to Nomura analyst Michael Nathanson.
For the major broadcast networks, the figures are even more startling. Without the Super Bowl, which it broadcast last year, NBC was off 40%. Fox was down 19%, and ABC was down 6.2%. CBS was saved only by Super Sunday, posting an 8% gain, reported The NY Post.
“The first-quarter broadcast ratings, under any metric, were ugly,” Nathanson wrote in a report to clients.
Nor is the drama limited to broadcast. Even cable networks, which boast a growing roster of hit shows from History’s “The Bible” to AMC’s “Walking Dead,” were down 3% in primetime among adults ages 18-49 years old.
Nathanson predicts a shift of ad dollars to cable, given broadcast’s especially weak hand. Cable booked $9.8 billion in upfront ad dollars last year, a 5% gain. Broadcast took in around $9.3 billion.
“The world has become more complicated, and behavior is changing,” Nathanson said. “The DVR is in 47% of households.”
Right now the networks are paid by advertisers based on how many viewers watch the commercials in their shows over the first three days after a show is aired, known as “C3.” But there has been a push to extend that to C7, or 7 days, allowing the networks to capture more delayed viewing.
The problem isn’t lack of interest in TV, but rather audience fragmentation and ratings giant Nielsen’s inability to catch up to the consumer, noted the story. More viewers are cobbling together their TV watching from a variety of sources, including DVRs, Netflix and Xbox.
In September, Nielsen will change the definition of a TV household to include homes that watch streaming video via a gaming console, for instance. Currently it counts only those watching on a TV set. The definition, however, won’t extend to mobile viewing on tablets.
RBR-TVBR observation: Just a hiccup. Eventually all viewing will be cobbled together and credited to the content owners. The process takes time, however, as combined viewing estimates need MRC accreditation and agreement between media agency clients as well as content providers. The problem to also be solved is advertisers that need live TV ratings. When Macy’s, for example, is hyping a sale, they may have to go to other media to hit their reach and frequency needs for a campaign. If someone is watching Mad Men, for instance, on their iPad three days after the Macy’s sale is over, then that ad is wasted. However, someone watching an episode of Mad Men from last week could see that sale ad today via online insertion. So, with technology and a meeting of the minds, eventually all viewing will be tallied and given credit where credit is due. Nielsen is working as fast as possible to make it a reality.